A new low price for computers
But it was still hard to believe when Elonex announced at the beginning of the year that it was going to sell its One for £100.
OK, this is a Linux-based mini-notebook, intended primarily for school and college students, but there’s nothing to stop people who aren't in education from buying one too.
Available in lime green and grey as well as the standard black, white and pink, The One is an unconventional machine in several ways.
Perhaps the most obvious oddity is that it's upside down: most notebooks put their electronics beneath the keyboard, which keeps the screen section quite light and stops them tipping over.
The One's keyboard is in its lid and the electronics sit behind the 7in screen. Tipping would be a problem if it wasn’t for a little strut which folds out from the back to support it.
One of the reasons for putting the membrane keyboard (which will be familiar to 1980s Spectrum users) in the lid is to give it more room, and true, there is space for quick access keys for the web, email and music. The keyboard is comfortable for typing, but the slow speed of the computer means it has trouble coping with even moderately fast typing in the word processor and email.
There's no trackpad; instead there is an enlarged button that acts like an old-fashioned trackball for moving the mouse pointer – between that and the keyboard, input facilities are only adequate. It was quite hard to zero in on any of the small on-screen buttons and there seemed to be no way of making it less sensitive.
The widescreen display is bright and easy to read and the whole of the display and processor section can be removed from the keyboard and used separately. There are even duplicate mouse controls on the back, although unlike a tablet PC the screen is not touch-sensitive so you can't write or draw directly on it (this was, apparently, considered, but proved too expensive).
The One comes with 128MB of memory and a 1GB solid state disk instead of a hard disk, though less than 800MB is available for use.
Ranged around the machine’s edges are network and two USB ports, microphone and headphone sockets and a volume control. You can wire up the machine to a standard home or office network, but it also comes as standard with the ability to connect to both wireless networks and Bluetooth, so most of the time it’ll be easier to work wirelessly.
Wireless networking is handled well by the operating system, which a customised version of Linux rather than Windows XP, and there’s a lot of software pre-installed.
As well as quite a decent word processor and spreadsheet, both of which can load and save Microsoft Office files (though not the latest 2007 varieties), there are several entertainment programs, too. There are music and media players and a menu full of games, though they display with black bars either side, not in full-screen.
The main catch here is the 300MHz processor, which is barely enough to keep it going. As we mentioned, the keyboard can't keep up with moderate typing speeds, which is a big problem and symptomatic of the slow processor.
In the end, though, you have to remind yourself that this is a £100 notebook. It’s a very respectable machine for this price and you will be able to get useful work from it (as long as you remember to type slowly).
The problems we’ve noted are nearly all down to the software and it may well be that a downloadable upgrade in future could sort them out, but for now they put a dent in the sheen of an otherwise impressive computer.
Read more reviews
Good points: Amazing price; Wifi and Bluetooth; comprehensive software bundle Bad points: Slow; overbalances when used on lap Overall: It works for web browsing, email and messaging, but is very slow for other duties
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